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Saying sorry for mistake 'not admission of negligence''

By Steve Nowottny

GPs should not be afraid of the legal consequences of saying sorry if something has gone wrong with the treatment of a patient, medical defence experts are advising.

The Medical Defence Union backed guidance from the NHS Litigation Authority, circulated to NHS bodies earlier this month, which said: ‘It is both natural and desirable for clinicians who have provided treatment which produces an adverse result, for whatever reason, to sympathise with the patient or the patient's relatives.'

The NHSLA advice applies to the provision of NHS indemnity to NHS bodies and employees, but the MDU said it endorsed the same policy for all its members.

Chief executive Dr Christine Tomkins said: ‘Any patient who has had the misfortune to suffer through an error of whatever nature should receive a full explanation and a genuine apology.'

‘There are no legal concerns about taking this course of action. In fact, it is now enshrined in law in Section 2 of the Compensation Act 2006 which says ‘an apology, offer of treatment or other redress, shall not of itself amount to an admission of negligence or breach of statutory duty.''

‘In the MDU's experience, an explanation and apology at an early stage can help reduce the risk of a complaint and is often all that a patient or a relative wants to hear.'

Under new complaints rules which came in last month, any incident reported verbally and resolved by a practice by the end of the next working day will not have to be recorded as an official complaint.

GPs shouldn't be afraid of saying sorry, the Medical Defence Union is advising

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